Synagogue targeted as Dagestan terror attacks leave at least 19 dead

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Synagogue targeted as Dagestan terror attacks leave at least 19 dead

In co-ordinated attacks in two cities, gunmen attacked a synagogue, home to a Jewish community in the predominantly Muslim region.

Synagogue burns in Dagestan city
Synagogue burns in Dagestan city

Gunmen opened fire on a synagogue and two Orthodox churches in cities in Russia’s north Caucasus region of Dagestan killing at least 19 people including police officers and a priest, Russian media reported.

In the city of Derbent, gunmen attacked a synagogue, home to a Jewish community in the predominantly Muslim region.

Officials said the Derbent synagogue was set on fire and a clip from the scene showed large flames and smoke coming out of the building, which is listed as a Unesco heritage site.

Reports said one officer was killed when shots were fired at a synagogue and a church in Derbent.“Unidentified people fired at a synagogue and a church with automatic weapons,” the interior ministry said.

“One police officer was killed and one injured.”“This is a day of tragedy day for Dagestan and the whole country,” Sergei Melikov, governor of the Dagestan region, said in a video published early on Monday on the Telegram messaging app.

In a separate shooting which occurred simultaneously, a group opened fire on police in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, located about 75 miles north along the Caspian Sea coast.

According to local authorities, at least one police officer was killed and six others injured. 

“We understand who is behind the organisation of the terrorist attacks and what goal they pursued,” Melikov said, who confirmed at least six “militants” were also killed.

Russia’s state media cited law enforcement as saying that among the attackers were two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district.

Melikov said that among the dead was an Orthodox priest who worked in Derbent for more than 40 years.

Russia’s investigative committee classified the shooting as a terrorist attack and has opened an investigation. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, although ISIS and other Islamist groups have been behind terrorist attacks in the region in the recent past.

Melikov said in the video statement that the situation in the region was under control of the law enforcement and local authorities, and vowed that the investigation of the attacks will continue until “all the sleeping cells” of the militants are uncovered. 

He claimed, without providing evidence, that the attacks might have been prepared from abroad, and referenced what the Kremlin calls “the special military operation” in Ukraine in an apparent attempt to link the attacks to it.

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